There’s an art in turning bad fishing days into good ones

James Buckley (aka Peter Crabtree) shows what fun fishing can be.

James Buckley (aka Peter Crabtree) shows what fun fishing can be. - Credit: Archant

Just the other day, I was down at Buckland, the phenomenal new rudd water in Kent of which I'm fortunate to be a syndicate member.

It's a miserable drive there, but even worse coming back, generally hitting rush hour and trying to cope with the Dartford Tunnel. The misery of it looms through the entire day and doesn't half reinforce how lucky we are up here in East Anglia with our quiet, dusty country roads. But to the fishing. As some of you will know from scanning the angling press, Buckland is the new rudd sensation and there are only a dozen of us allowed to fish this massive, 60-acre former chalk pit. It's a bit like a sea, especially when the wind hits it, and each of all my trips have seen gale winds so far. Just like the session I'm going to briefly describe.

I'd arrived at six, as the murky dawn was breaking and little had gone right for me by midday. The threat of the M25 was hanging over me when I made the decision to go all out on maggots. I went lighter, onto a smaller float, closer in and peppered the swim with reds. I picked up a beautiful 2lb 2oz rudd that absolutely shone in the fresh, autumn afternoon light. Then, with thoughts of packing, my float slid away again and I was into a rudd that could have eaten the first one. In the event, it got into the Norfolk reed bed and nothing I could do would entice it out. I put on my chestwaders, but it was evident the fish was right down in 12 feet of water. I thought about swimming and I would have done had not the light hook length given way and the bright light allowed me to see the monster cruise back into the deep. Four pounds? I'd say bigger.

The misery of it all only made the call towards the Tunnel all the more dispiriting. I was completely and utterly down in the mouth, heart in boots. I thought about the old nonsense sayings, you know: 'You can't lose what you never had.' Complete balderdash. I should have had that fish and I did lose it and I was gutted.

There's another useless saying as well, isn't there? A bad day on the river is better than a good day in the office. Well, I wished I'd stayed at home and got some articles done rather than feel the pain of this present calamity.


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By Brandon I'd cheered up a bit. Through Swaffham I became the old JB and by Fakenham, crossing the Wensum, I was singing again. After all, it had been a great day. Clichéd though it is, it's better to have loved and lost and all that sort of thing and you always count your blessings.

Two kingfishers flitting backwards and forwards, incredibly busy sorting out the sticklebacks. The sight of some monster rudd rolling out in the heavy swell. The companionship in the fishing hut and a big yak over a nice cup of coffee. Just the ability to be there, to enjoy the fishing, to be a part of the adrenaline-churning excitement that is Buckland. Blimey, what an old git, I was thinking, by the time I got to Holt. Fancy me grumbling about an experience like this.

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The second series of Fishing in the Footsteps of Mr Crabtree is soon to hit the screens. If there's one message, it is that we oldies have a duty to mentor those young anglers who show a passion for the sport. Fishing is a little like folk music in so far as it is handed down generation to generation and I think back to the old boys who taught me on the northern canals when I was just four or five.

How they would have gawped to have seen that rudd at the end of my line at Buckland.

Through the Crabtree series, my apprentice, my 'Peter' was young James Buckley who is the most fabulous lad there is. The filming was often arduous, as it is when you're working with animals, but he was a constant tower of strength and sanity.

For a 13-year-old, he took our combined breath away. A lot of this is down to his dad, Rob, who was obviously with us every minute of the shoot. I was privileged to be a part of the partnership that Rob and James have formed.

That's what fishing can do. It can make a relationship very special indeed. I guess because of fishing, James and Rob will remain inseparable throughout their lives.

Mr Crabtree is all about catching fish, but it's all about the golden moment and helping set up a great life.

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